LAWRENCE, Kan. — Above the windows on the north wall of Phog Allen Fieldhouse is a sign that the Missouri basketball team doesn't have to read.
"Pay Heed, All Who Enter," it says. "BEWARE OF THE PHOG."
Under the sign hangs Kansas' five championship banners, three of them NCAA championships.
All seven of Missouri's scholarship players were aware of the Phog. They'd all played there at least once. Seniors Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Steve Moore had played there three times. They knew that it is one of the toughest arenas to play in in the country - Kansas has lost there just 13 times since February 1994.
With that knowledge, the Tigers went in and played unfazed on Saturday. Despite losing by 17 last season, 19 in 2010 and 25 in 2009, English and Michael Dixon skipped confidently onto the floor before the game.
It was clear just how badly they wanted to win and add a victory in Lawrence to their growing list of accomplishments this season. Phil Pressey pumped his fist or clapped after every big basket one of his teammates made. The normally stoic Denmon hopped around and yelled after hitting a big three-pointer in the first half.
For a while it looked like they would win. It looked like they would be the first Missouri team to win at Allen Fieldhouse since 1999. It looked like they would be the first Missouri team to sweep Kansas since 1994. Up by 12 at halftime and 19 at one point in the second half, it looked like it wouldn't even be close.
But the Jayhawks climbed back into the game as the Tigers started to get into foul trouble and failed to score on several offensive possessions. The Phog grew louder as Kansas edged closer and closer. Missouri coach Frank Haith could feel the biggest win of his career slipping out of his hands, and he violently threw off his jacket with about six minutes to go.
Kansas finally tied the game with 16 seconds left and forced overtime. But even in overtime, Missouri still didn't drown in the Phog. Denmon scored eight points of his team-high 28 points in overtime, and Missouri led twice with under a minute to play.
Only when the final buzzer sounded before Missouri could get a shot off did the Tigers finally disappear, the scoreboard showing an 87-86 defeat. Dixon sat on the floor with his head in his arms, dwelling on just how close his team came to what would have been its biggest win in years.
"These guys played their hearts out," Haith said. "We left it all on the court. I mean I read everything— we weren't even supposed to be in the game today. We weren't supposed to be in the game today. These guys came out and competed."
Kansas' win clinched the Jayhawks at least a tie for the top of the Big 12 regular-season standings for the eighth straight season. The loss, English said, will be a learning experience for Missouri.
"This loss doesn't define our season," English said. "This isn't football, we're not out of the national championship running with a regular season loss. We'll learn from this."
The win comes three weeks after Missouri made a dramatic comeback in the final three minutes to beat Kansas 74-71 in Columbia.
"It was big," Robinson said. "Revenge, payback, it definitely feels good. After last time it felt like somebody jumped us and ran away and we finally caught up to them."
The two teams could play a rematch in the Big 12 Championship, which runs from March 7-10. If not, there is no scheduled game in the future since Missouri is joining the SEC next season.
But Haith hopes that the two schools can work something out soon, and he isn't wary of returning to the Phog.
"You saw the atmosphere today and the atmosphere at our place," Haith said. "It would be sad if we don't play."